How to make Poolish at home and manage the timing
Before showing you how to prepare the Poolish, let’s provide a brief summary of what you’ll read in this article:
We will see what a Poolish is and a liquid pre-ferment in general, why it is used, what advantages it offers to your product, and you will find the link to the tutorial on how to prepare and manage a Poolish at home without special tools.
1. Dough with direct and indirect methods
The direct method is the one that involves adding all the ingredients in a single kneading phase.
When using a Biga or other pre-ferments, the kneading is carried out in two distinct phases:
- In the first phase, the pre-ferment is prepared and allowed to ferment, typically consisting of only water, flour, and yeast.
- In the second phase, the mature pre-ferment will be combined with all the other remaining ingredients.
This type of kneading, divided into two phases, is called the indirect method.
2. What is a pre-ferment?
Pre-ferments are created by fermenting a mixture of flour, water, and yeast in varying quantities depending on the type, and we can divide them into two main categories:
- Liquid pre-ferments are prepared by combining equal amounts of water and flour, with the addition of yeast depending on the fermentation time it needs to undergo.
- Solid pre-ferments, on the other hand, are composed of a mixture of flour and water in varying proportions, ranging from 45% to 60%, and a variable amount of yeast depending on the type of pre-ferment we want to create.
3. What is Poolish?
It is a liquid pre-ferment that originated from Polish bakers, who gave it the name “Zczyn Polski,” which literally means “Polish initiation“.
This technique was exported first to England and then to France, where it was named Poolish in honor of its creators.
The phonetic uncertainty arises from the fact that its pronunciation in English would be “poolish,” but in French, it should be pronounced “polisch,” deriving from “Polski” with an “o.” Being a “fantasy” term coined in England and popularized in France, you can understand that it’s complex to determine the correct pronunciation.
It is usually prepared by mixing flours with a strength of 300 to 350W with 100% water (equal weight of flour and water) and adding yeast in varying quantities based on the fermentation time, as you can see in the table below.
The fermentation period can vary from one to 18 hours, and the temperature is fixed at 20°C.
I prepared a tutorial where I show you how to make and ferment a Poolish in eight hours. A process that I believe to be the best compromise between simplicity, speed, and results.
4. Why are liquid pre-doughs used?
In an indirect dough, we delegate the entire fermentation process to the pre-ferment, which we would typically try to achieve through a more or less extended bulk fermentation.
With the advantage, in this case, of obtaining a very extensible dough, gaining unique aromatic and taste notes that are difficult to achieve with a direct dough, along with a high availability of sugars due to strong amylase activity and higher acidity.
All of this results in a bread with airy and organized structures, thin and crispy crusts, enriched taste nuances, and a slower staling process.
5. What’s the difference between solid and liquid pre-doughs?
The main difference lies in the amount of water used. In a liquid pre-ferment, we have 100% hydration, whereas in a solid (or dry) pre-ferment, hydration ranges from 45% to 60%.
This results in more interesting and pronounced aromas and flavors in liquid pre-ferments at the expense of the explosive and open structure typically found in solid pre-ferments.
Furthermore, as we will see later, a solid pre-ferment can be used in very high percentages, up to 100%, without adding refreshment flour in the final dough, whereas with a liquid pre-ferment, it is very challenging to exceed 30/40%.
6. How to prepare liquid pre-doughs. (Tutorial)
Since it’s much easier to show in a video than describe in writing, I’ve made a great video on my YouTube channel to demonstrate how to prepare a pre-dough like Poolish:
7. The amount of Poolish in a dough
But how do you use it, and in what quantity do you incorporate the Poolish into the dough? The usage is quite simple, actually. Imagine taking your favorite bread or pizza recipe and subtracting from the total of the ingredients the ones used to make the Poolish, ensuring that there are no negative values. If that happens, you will need to reduce the quantity accordingly.
The theory is this, and there’s no need to implement any special adjustments. Your dough will rise more quickly, but apart from this aspect, you will manage it almost like a direct dough.
N.B.: The percentage of a pre-ferment is always calculated by the ratio of the flour used in the pre-ferment to the total flour in the recipe.
For example, if you prepare the Poolish with 300g of flour and add 700g to complete the dough, you will have a dough with 30% Poolish according to the formula: Poolish flour/total flour x 100.
8. Pros of Liquid Pre-ferments
- The first advantage of using a pre-ferment like Poolish is the ease of management in a home environment. The fermentation temperature of 20°C is quite helpful in the process.
- The second advantage is that it adapts well to many types of products. Bread, pizza, focaccia, and various desserts – there are practically no contraindications in any type of baking.
- The third advantage is that it can be kneaded even without special equipment. If we don’t go overboard with hydrations, we can consider kneading by hand as well.
- The fourth advantage is that the fermentations we achieve with pre-doughs are difficult to obtain with a direct dough, especially when using pre-dough percentages higher than 50%.
9. Cons of Liquid Pre-doughs
- The management of a dough with Poolish is very similar to that of a direct dough (but I’m not sure if it’s an advantage or a disadvantage)
- Unfortunately, it’s a pre-dough that doesn’t work well with flours other than Type 0 and 00.
- It’s difficult (if not impossible) to incorporate it into a dough in percentages higher than 30-40%.
Great, I believe I’ve provided a fairly comprehensive overview of the Poolish, but there are certainly some parts that need further exploration, and I won’t delay in doing so on the Blog or on my YouTube channel.
As always, let me know if this article was helpful by commenting on the video tutorial I’ve provided below:
…And now knead, enjoy and taste!